A tumultuous ten-day spell has seen the Cosmos crash out of the US Open Cup, practically circumnavigate the globe to play out a draw in a Saudi sandstorm and finally return home to Brooklyn to take on the NASL newcomers from San Fransisco.
So in the spirit of globalism, I decided to make it a holiday weekend of sports viewing and combine the Cosmos game with coverage of the Adelaide Crows vs. Freemantle Dockers of the Australian Football League. And we’re not talking Australian soccer, or Rugby, or Gridiron. We’re talking Australian Football (or ‘Aussie Rules’), a wonderfully fast, fluid and often physical cousin of the football we all know and love. Quite a doubleheader, and as it turned out, quite a contrast.
The Cosmos started, again, with a much changed team that on paper looked intriguing. Once more, the line-up lacked a recognised striker (we’re told the absent Amauri is dealing with personal issues) and seemingly featured two left backs. As it turned out, much like Aussie Rules it was a delightfully fluid formation that lent itself to a creative, possession based passing game. Ayoze and Mulligan appeared to share both defensive and attacking duties on the left, attempting to use the overlap to run at the solid Deltas backline. The ‘front four’ of Ledesma, Restrepo, Flores and Marquez seemed to be positionally interchangeable, hoping also to pull the organised opposition out of alignment.
But for all it’s tactical ingenuity, the team was still missing that obvious and most important element - the finishing touch - as the Cosmos failed to turn possession into real chances.
For the San Francisco Deltas, this match went perfectly to plan. They kept the Cosmos contained and managed to hit them on the break on a number of occasions. In fact, the Deltas did hit the net in the first half, only for Reiner Ferreira’s header to have been deemed offside.
Initially it looked like Gio Savarese’s game plan could also pay off, as on numerous occasions Ledesma and Restrepo got behind the back line on opposite wings to link up dangerously. They came close on thirty-six minutes as a Ledesma surge allowed him to cross to an unmarked Restrepo at the far post. However, the winger’s volley sailed harmlessly over the bar.
In the second half, the New York Originals began to turn their possession into more sustained pressure and the Deltas showed their frustration by racking up five yellow cards. Javi Marquez came closest as his header from yet another Ledesma cross came off the top of the bar and a few minutes later he again threatened with a set piece. When man-of-the-match Ledesma was forced of with an ankle injury, Irvin Herrera took over, running at the Deltas backline with intent. However, no Cosmos player quite had the killer touch and a game that seemed like a nill-nill draw from the outset ultimately remained that way.
For all their dominance in the second half, the Cosmos were almost undone by the Deltas in the 97th(!) minute as Dutchman Kenny Teijsse found a little time and space inside the box after a corner only to volley over the bar.
In the end, this was a point and a maiden home clean-sheet for the Cosmos after an eventful (and no doubt tiring) week. While Jimmy Maurer and Danny Szetela were honoured before the game for their respective centuries of Cosmos appearances, neither featured. We’re told Jimmy Maurer was injured, but it was a great opportunity for Brian Holt to show his talent. With a clean sheet and a confident display in a sweeper-keeper role, the young Nebraskan will certainly keep Maurer on his toes.
Of course, credit must go to Savarese for the way he set up the team. The Deltas came to New York to stay organised and avoid conceding. Though they achieved just that, Gio did a marvellously creative job with the resources available to him and had just one of those chances gone in, it would have been a well earned win.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, (since I’m sure you’ve all been wondering...) the Adelaide Crows showed exactly what happens when you have a fluid, possession based game and the killer touch in the final third. Scoring twenty goals (in a single game, no less), they stormed to a 143-43 victory and lead the AFL standings. The Cosmos on the other hand are on course to score 20 goals in the entire spring season and remain in fourth spot in the NASL, tied with the Deltas and Jacksonville Armada on thirteen points.
The Cosmos travel to North Carolina next Sunday before returning home Wednesday June 7th as they take on FC Edmonton.